Local news and niche publishing wrapped in hyper-local advertising are the inevitable future of profitable media. Large publishing companies are going under with the weight of many mouths to feed and long, expensive distribution channels to get their messages to their readers’ coffee tables. As the canopy opens on this space, nimble, smaller, even home based media businesses are sprouting.
How has this happened? I believe it is a combination of diminishing returns on the old ‘rivers of gold’ (once controlled by the big end of town), with the advent of a glut of media channels and technologies for new delivery models. The financial ‘backbone’ of traditional newspaper publishing was always the classifieds, real estate and automotive, along with per-copy purchase revenues. To start a newspaper or magazine you needed to already have a dozen other titles in the stable, invariably launched by your father’s father.
Then the internet hit. Initially the impact was minimal, but in the last few years as readers start looking elsewhere for their information, the industry has been whisked into a storm of panic. Suddenly Dear Dolly does not have all the answers. Suddenly the same news on the homepage of a $1.50 newspaper is available earlier online, with related links, videos and community opinion…for free!
When was the last time you bought a paper specifically to view classifieds, real estate or automotive listings, or to learn more about a news item someone mentioned in passing? How many of your friends subscribe to daily or even weekly delivery of a print newspaper? Now think of how many newsletters you and your friends subscribe to, or how quickly you get your news from online search engines, news websites or registered communities.
Concurrently with changes in end-user viewing patterns, technologies exploded, affecting no industry more so than the media space, which is on fire! Information is the most heavily invested commodity on this planet, far exceeding oil, gold or construction. Efforts to tap into this multi-billion dollar industry are breeding new wealth and plenty of fresh ideas.
Faster internet connections, the rise of some terrific content management systems that allow even the layman to get online and become master of his domain in a matter of days, the online social media phenomenon and the ready access to support all augur Pensivly well for the imaginative entrepreneur. Young business people no longer compare engines under the bonnet or boyfriends, instead websites, hardware and online careers.
Inevitably the more technology poured into the media-scape the more players flock to discover gold, which in turn further inspires the public to be even more discerning in its consumption of that media. But we all know this – what is the opportunity?
So here is the punchline – the bigger the toybox and scope of possibility, the more we see end users wanting to dissect their information chunks, making these chunks smaller and more relevant to their personal interests. They want local news about their neighbourhoods. They want to pick up a magazine from the coffee table that invites them into a community of other Brazilian Pink-spotted Lizard lovers, and they want to know that they can feed into their media of choice, contribute some of their own insights, integrate.
The opportunity therefore is simply to facilitate this trend, grease the track and clip everyone’s ticket as they pass through your gates. Grab a local news, magazine or community news website. Fill it with enough content to create a starting point of interest, and there is plenty of free or very cheap content out there, then hit up your local or niche community for their own contributions. Get the balance right and you will hit that magic ‘critical mass’ where your news or magazine site starts taking care of itself. You may always have to login and approve the articles, but the online ad revenues should help sweeten things.
In a nutshell, you are running a multi-user blog, without ever having to submit a blog of your own. The successful publishers of tomorrow will be those media entrepreneurs who get the content balances right, whereupon the advertising dollars will follow. When they see their local news, magazine or community website succeeding, they may very well press the ‘Export’ button and go to press!